Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/wcd-2021-16
https://doi.org/10.5194/wcd-2021-16

  30 Mar 2021

30 Mar 2021

Review status: a revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal WCD and is expected to appear here in due course.

Dynamical and Surface Impacts of the January 2021 Sudden Stratospheric Warming in Novel Aeolus Wind Observations, MLS and ERA5

Corwin J. Wright1, Richard J. Hall2, Timothy P. Banyard1, Neil P. Hindley1, Daniel M. Mitchell2, and William J. M. Seviour3,4 Corwin J. Wright et al.
  • 1Centre for Space, Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, University of Bath, UK
  • 2School of Geographical Sciences and Cabot Institute for the Environment, University of Bristol, UK
  • 3College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter, UK
  • 4Global Systems Institute, University of Exeter, UK

Abstract. Major sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs) are extreme dynamical events where the usual strong westerly winds of the stratospheric polar vortex temporarily weaken or reverse and polar stratospheric temperatures rise by tens of Kelvin over just a few days. Via dynamical modification of the atmosphere below them, SSWs are believed to be a key contributor to extreme winter weather events at the surface over the following weeks. Due to the major technical challenges involved in measuring wind from space, SSW-induced changes to the structure of the polar vortex have never previously been directly observed at the global scale. Here, we exploit novel observations from ESA's flagship Aeolus wind-profiler mission, supported by additional temperature and geopotential height data from NASA's MLS limb sounder and the ERA5 reanalysis. This allows us to directly examine wind and related dynamical changes associated with the January 2021 major SSW, the first such event in the Aeolus data record. Aeolus is the first satellite mission to systematically and directly acquire profiles of wind, and therefore our results represent the first direct measurements of SSW-induced wind changes at the global scale. We see a complete reversal of the zonal winds in the lower-middle stratosphere, with reversed winds in some geographic regions reaching down to the bottom 2 km of the atmosphere. These altered winds are associated with major changes to surface temperature patterns, and in particular we see a strong potential linkage from the SSW to extreme winter-weather outbreaks in Greece and Texas during late January and early February. Our results 1) demonstrate the benefits of wind-profiling satellites such as Aeolus in terms of both their direct measurement capability and use in supporting reanalysis-driven interpretation of stratosphere-troposphere coupling signatures, 2) provide a detailed dynamical description of a major weather event, and 3) have implications for the development of Earth-System models capable of accurately forecasting extreme winter weather.

Corwin J. Wright et al.

Status: closed

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on wcd-2021-16', Gloria Manney, 03 May 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on wcd-2021-16', Isabell Krisch, 04 May 2021
  • EC1: 'Comment on wcd-2021-16', Peter Knippertz, 05 May 2021
    • CC1: 'Reply on EC1', Corwin Wright, 05 May 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on EC1', Corwin Wright, 07 May 2021
      • RC3: 'Reply on AC1', Gloria Manney, 07 May 2021
        • EC2: 'Reply on RC3', Peter Knippertz, 11 May 2021

Status: closed

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on wcd-2021-16', Gloria Manney, 03 May 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on wcd-2021-16', Isabell Krisch, 04 May 2021
  • EC1: 'Comment on wcd-2021-16', Peter Knippertz, 05 May 2021
    • CC1: 'Reply on EC1', Corwin Wright, 05 May 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on EC1', Corwin Wright, 07 May 2021
      • RC3: 'Reply on AC1', Gloria Manney, 07 May 2021
        • EC2: 'Reply on RC3', Peter Knippertz, 11 May 2021

Corwin J. Wright et al.

Corwin J. Wright et al.

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Short summary
Major sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs) are some of the most dramatic events in the atmosphere, and are believed to help cause extreme winter weather events such as the 2018 Beast from the East in Europe and North America. Here, we use unique data from the European Space Agency's new Aeolus satellite to make the first-ever measurements at a global scale of wind changes due to an SSW in the lower part of the atmosphere, to help us understand how SSWs affect the atmosphere and surface weather.